Spain’s Sanchez Aims to Outflank Rivals Courting Rank-and-File

  • Sanchez offers to let all party members vote on alliances
  • King, Sanchez to discuss prospects for deal on Tuesday

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez sought to outflank his opponents within the party leadership by letting all his party’s members to have a say on any potential alliances to take power in Spain.

A vote would let the membership approve or reject any agreement with other political groups aimed at forming a new government, Sanchez said Saturday in a speech before a meeting of the party’s federal committee. While the consultation won’t be binding, an endorsement would ramp up the political costs for Sanchez’s opponents if they want to use the federal committee’s veto to stop him governing.

Pedro Sanchez at the federal committee meeting

Photographer: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

“Any agreement that we get will have all possible guarantees so it will be subject to the federal committee’s approval as well as a consultation to the members,” Sanchez said. “I’m not prepared to offer a blank check just to be prime minister.”

Despite posting the worst election result in his party’s history last month, Sanchez has a chance of becoming prime minister if he can broker a deal with the anti-austerity group Podemos. Podemos’s offer of support has provoked resistance among some senior Socialist officials because of they consider its economic policies too extreme and because of its dalliance with Catalan separatism.

Former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, the founding father of modern Socialism in Spain, opposed a deal with Podemos in an interview with El Pais on Thursday. Gonzalez, known simply as Felipe to the rank-and-file, urged Sanchez to avoid getting involved with the group which is challenging the Socialists traditional dominance of the progressive vote.

Sanchez won’t face re-election for the party leadership until May 8, a party spokesman said. By then, party members will probably know the result of his efforts to form a government.

Political Gridlock

Spain’s general election last month produced a deadlock in parliament. Though Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party finished first, it lost its majority and a third of its lawmakers. The second-place Socialists posted its worst result of the democratic era. Even with the support of Podemos’s 69 lawmakers, the Socialists would need other minor parties to abstain in order to win a confidence vote and pass legislation.

Yet with Rajoy isolated after four years of budget cuts and corruption allegations relating to his party, Sanchez has the best shot at forming a government.

Rajoy declined a Jan. 22 invitation from King Felipe VI to seek parliament’s support for a second term, saying he didn’t have enough backing. On the same day, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said he’s ready to support a Socialist-led administration. That offer had conditions, as Iglesias demanded control of the most important ministries and challenged Sanchez to confront party dissidents who oppose such a deal.

“I am tired of listening to Mr. Iglesias talking and interfering with the militants and leaders of the Socialist party,” said Susana Diaz, the president of Andalusia, the Socialist party’s biggest base of support. “That’s a lack of respect.”

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